National Hansen's Disease Museum
|Location||5445 Point Clair Rd
Carville, Louisiana 70721
|Curator||Elizabeth Schexnyder, telephone 225-642-1950|
Located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River in Carville, Louisiana, the National Leprosarium was one of two leprosy hospitals in the United States. An abandoned sugar plantation became the Louisiana Leper Home in 1894. Eventually the facility would develop into a hospital that promoted understanding, identification, and treatment of leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease. But in the early days, there was no effective medical treatment, and patients entered the gates under mandatory quarantine and many never left the hospital again.
The "Home" began work with a patient load of five men and two women in the 1890s. Louisiana Leper Home was known as "a place of refuge, not reproach; a place of treatment and research, not detention". It offered hope and a comfortable refuge from society. Over the next century, the property would develop into a world class hospital, housing hundreds of employees and patients, including married couples and children.
In 1921, the U.S. Public Health Service took control and the facility became U.S. Marine Hospital Number 66, the National Leprosarium of the United States. Patient Stanley Stein, known as "Carville's Crusader", began a two-page newsletter in 1931. It grew into The STAR, a world-renowned newspaper that is still in publication.
In 1986, the facility became the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center, named after the distinguished United States Congressman Gillis W. Long. He was an advocate for people living and working with Hansen's disease. All Public Health Service hospitals were closed during the 1980s, with the exception of Carville. Long was successful in lobbying Congress to keep Carville open for the patients who wanted to remain on site, even though mandatory quarantine ceased to be law some years before. The name change was directly linked to Congressman Long's influence in keeping the hospital open.
In 1992, the Carville Historic District was established and in 1996 the National Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Museum was founded. The U.S. Congress passed a bill to relocate the Gillis W. Long Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) Center to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and as of 1999 the National Hansen's Disease Programs continues its clinical care and research for Hansen's disease in Baton Rouge.
Exhibits include a history of the Carville facility, the United States Public Health Service and Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul who cared for the residents. Other exhibits include a recreated 1940s-era patient's room, stories of patients, their daily lives as residents and the problems they faced and information on Hansen's disease and advances in treatment.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the town of Carville became the temporary home for thousands of National Guard troops and public health officials assisting with relief efforts. Museum officials interviewed several of the personnel and recorded their responses. They also photographed the damage in nearby communities and the tasks the workers faced to help restore these areas. The museum created a new collection for these materials.
Other archival collections include photos and records of the Daughters of Charity who worked as nurses, teachers, researchers, medical librarians, and pharmacists from 1896 to 2005; The 66 Star a bi-monthly patient newsletter issued between 1931 and 1934 and its successor, The STAR, which began publication in 1941 and continues today. The archives also holds copies of The Question Mark, a student newsletter that began in the 1940s and The Point Clarion, the employee newsletter.
A free, searchable online collection of The STAR 1941 - 2001 is available on the Louisiana Digital Library The STAR: Radiating the light of truth on Hansen's disease.
The Federal Government returned the site to the State of Louisiana in 1999. The state of Louisiana created a military base where the Louisiana National Guard currently operates a boot-camp style school for at-risk youth. There are other military and government tenants onsite. In addition to the museum, up until 2015, the grounds remained home to a few elderly residents who chose to stay after the hospital's official closing.
The Foundation for Historical Louisiana currently lists the site on its Treasures in Trouble list stating that many structures require extensive repairs and maintenance.
- Sternberg, Mary Ann (2005-01-14). "Flood of memories fills museums on River Road". Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on November 3, 2006.
- Garry Boulard (29 November 1993). "Only U.S. leper colony faces uncertain future : Scientific advances, budget cuts could close the Louisiana facility". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- Maria C. Montoya (7 August 2009). "National Hansen's Disease Museum in Carville shows how leprosy patients built a rich life amid all the fear". (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. nola.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- Susan Larson (10 June 1999). "The legacy of Carville--National Hansen's Disease Center and onetime federal prison". (New Orleans) Times-Picayune. nola.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "History of the National Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) Program". HHS-Health Resources and Services Administration. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "National Hansen's Disease Museum-Collections & Exhibitions". HHS-Health Resources and Services Administration. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- "Carville Historic District". Foundation for Historical Louisiana. 2 November 2007. Retrieved 2011-07-27.